Swedish communication 101
It took me a long time to understand how Sweeds communicate, the unspoken rules, the discreet nods, movements, and facial expressions. Here I present some of the communication forms I noticed. However, people are different so, do not expect all the Sweeds to act like this.
Long discussions. There is only one expression that can describe the Swedish communication “they can kill by discussion”. It is hard to take a decision if there is a person with strong opposition and energy to negotiate for hours, days, weeks.
What You Hear Is Not What You Get (WYHINWYG ). What you hear it is not 100% what they mean. Let us say that someone tells you that something is interesting, it means nothing. It can be interesting in a good way or in a bad way. The same with the word experience (it can be a good or bad). If you ask a person how they found your idea and the answer is “your idea is interesting” it means nothing, as it can mean that the person liked the idea but also that they disliked it.
The silence when they disagree. If they do not like something, they most possibly will say nothing; except if you explicitly ask them in which case, they may use vague words like “interesting”. If they disagree with you and you do not see it because you perceive it as a comment and not as a counterargument then they will try to push their agenda in different ways e.g., exclude you from discussions related to the subject or choose to speak about the subject when you are not there. So keep your eyes open for subtle disagreements.
The Sandwich technique. From the European cultures I met, the Sweeds have the softest” no”. They will never say it directly instead they will use the Sandwich technique “Great work! However, …. But really nice outcome”. You should discard the “bread”.
The Swedish wall. If somehow you fail to understand a “no” you will most possibly be faced with a wall. That means that you will expect something from the person and the person will never do it and often will avoid answering to your mails. If you go above them in the hierarchy then they may answer but in an unpleasant way.
Passive aggressiveness. If you push them too much in a discussion, they can get passive aggressive which is pretty irritating but easy to ignore if your ego can take it.